Iran and the remaining world powers in the 2015 agreement to restrain Tehran's nuclear weapons development signaled new commitment Sunday to staying in the accord, even as Iran said it would diminish its compliance if European countries do not help alleviate the effects of U.S. economic sanctions.
Iranian diplomats met with their counterparts from Britain, France, Germany, the European Union, China and Russia in Vienna. Iranian and Chinese envoys voiced their satisfaction as the meeting ended.
"The atmosphere was constructive, and the discussions were good,'' Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told reporters. "I cannot say that we resolved everything,'' but all the parties are still "determined to save this deal."
The head of the Chinese delegation, Fu Cong, said that there were "some tense moments" during the meeting, but "on the whole the atmosphere was very good. Friendly. And it was very professional."
The parties met after tensions have heightened in the Middle East in recent weeks, with the U.S. and Iran both announcing they have shot down each other's unmanned drones near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow maritime passage through which international tankers transport at least a fifth of the world's crude oil supply.
In addition, Britain seized an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar that London believed was shipping oil to Syria, with Iran's Revolutionary Guard responding by taking over the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz. Britain is calling for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping passage through the Strait of Hormuz, but Iran said Sunday such a mission would be send a "hostile message."
Meanwhile, Iran has breached the size of the stockpile of enriched uranium it agreed to in the 2015 international accord and now is enriching it at 4.5% purity, marginally above the 3.67% level called for in the agreement.
Iran has warned the European signatories to the nuclear deal that they are not doing enough to alleviate the hobbling effects of U.S. economic sanctions President Donald Trump reimposed when he pulled the United States out of the pact last year on grounds that it was not restrictive enough to keep Iran from manufacturing nuclear weapons.
"As we have said, we will continue to reduce our commitments to the deal until Europeans secure Iran's interests under the deal," Araghchi said.
The Chinese and Iranian diplomats said a higher-level meeting of foreign ministers could be arranged soon to continue talks about the Iranian nuclear deal.